Union Canal Closure – Breach at Muiravonside

Updated 02/04/2021

On Friday 2nd April, the Union Canal towpath at Muiravonside, where last year’s breach occurred, reopened allowing locals to get back out along the canal and enjoy nature.

Eight months on from the breach our team of highly skilled engineers, working in partnership with Mackenzie Construction, have now completed the repairs to the embankment and the towpath.

We would ask those visiting the area to be safe and keep your distance, be smart and wash your hands regularly and above all be kind to each other as you explore and enjoy the green and blue space.

Updated 25/03/2021

At the end of February, we were able to start re-watering the Union Canal at the site of the Muiravonside breach. This landmark milestone in the reinstatement project allowed us to remove clay dams at the beginning of March as we prepare the channel to reopen to navigation.

Throughout March we have been progressing works to reconstruct the towpath, in addition to ongoing resilience improvements at the nearby Muiravonside weir. We expect to reopen the towpath and canal in this area in early April.

Below are some images of progress made in March 2021:

Updated 18/02/2021

Throughout February contractors have been progressing with breach reinstatement works in snowy and icy conditions. This month Sky cables and ducting have been placed, 10 metre pile tie bars have been installed and clay has been infilled between 10 metre piles.

Works are also underway at the nearby weir at Muiravonside. This weir suffered major damages as part of the breach event on 12th August and as part of the Union Canal Resilience Improvements, the weir will be replaced and upgraded to ensure it can withstand intense rainfall events in the future, whilst also building further resilience into the Union Canal. As a result there will be restrictions in navigation in this area until 7th April 2021.

Below are some images of progress made in February 2021

Updated 21/01/2020

All 7 metre piles across the localised embankment scars were driven before our Christmas shut-down period which began on Monday 22nd December.

Throughout January we have been driving 10 metre piles into the area which was the centre of the embankment breach. The breached section of towpath will be reconstructed between the piles.

Below are some images of progress made in January 2021

Updated 24/11/2020

Piling works have begun along the canal at Muiravonside. Piling works are expected to complete in February 2021, reopening the canal to navigation on completion. However the towpath will not be fully reinstated until the end of March 2021.

Below are some images of progress made in November 2020

Updated 09/11/2020

We have successfully installed a main temporary haul road and compound area and have constructed temporary access along the canal bed. This will allow safe plant access for piling works which will commence on Monday 16th November 2020. Piling works are expected to complete in February 2021.

During this time we will also be adding geo bag cladding to 60 metres of steel piles to form emergency moorings for three boats.

In the new year, ongoing works will see the relocation of Sky fibre optic cables back underground as we work to reinstate the canal and towpath. The estimated completion date for the reinstatement of the canal is end of March 2021.

Updated 25/08/2020

Our teams have been working in collaboration with Sustrans, the John Muir Way, Falkirk Council and the appropriate competent access and roads authorities to provide a new towpath diversion following the reopening of the Union Canal at the site of a minor embankment slip in the Brightons area. This diversion provides a safe and accessible route to both walkers and cyclists, taking them around the site of the Union Canal breach at Muiravonside. This has been assessed as the safest route and will be signed and available for use from 5pm on Tuesday the 25th of August.


Detailed directions (eastbound from Brightons)

  1. Leave the JMW/towpath at Brightons (Station Road).
  2. Turn right along the lane, then turn right onto B810 Quarry Brae and follow south towards Rumford and Maddiston.
  3. At the top of Quarry Brae turn left at the T-junction onto the B805 Maddiston Road. Continue on the B805.
  4. Continue ahead at next roundabout on B805 Main Road, and ahead again at another roundabout on B805 Main Road (Maddiston Primary School will be on your left).
  5. Continue on the B805 past Maddiston Mini Market and towards brow of the hill. At sign for “Cairneymount Church”, turn left onto Eccles Place.
  6. Follow Public Right of Way sign for ““High Road” to Muiravonside Park”, continuing ahead (east) onto High Road which quickly becomes a track and then a compacted stone path (“Maddiston High Road”).
  7. Follow “Maddiston High Road” path straight ahead, ignoring tracks and gates to left and right, until it emerges onto an unnamed minor road.
  8. Exit “Maddiston High Road” path by continuing straight ahead to join Almond Road, following sign for “Path Muiravonside Park”.
  9. On joining Almond Road – taking care at the junction – continuing east and following sign “Public right of way to Union Canal” as far as the bridge over the Union Canal.
  10. Cross the canal and take immediate left down the steps to join the towpath.
  11. Turn left along towpath to join the JMW eastbound (i.e. heading for Linlithgow.


  1. Leave towpath at Almond Road.
  2. Follow Almond Road westbound (take care, minor road, no pavement) over the canal bridge and for 0.4 mile to the junction with another minor road.
  3. Continue west (left) on the road for 0.2 mile until a sharp left hand bend and “Maddiston High Road” path ahead.
  4. Join “Maddiston High Road” off-road path for 0.6 mile to Maddiston, emerging onto Eccles Place.
  5. Turn right onto B805 Main Road and follow through Maddiston. At roundabout veer left to continue on B805 Main Road, then ahead at mini-roundabout to join B805 Maddiston Road.
  6. Turn right onto B810 Quarry Brae and follow downhill to Brightons. Keep ahead (slight right) at junction onto B810 Station Road.
  7. Cross the canal and turn left along the lane to join the towpath.
  8. Turn right along the towpath to continue westbound (towards Falkirk Wheel).

Updated 18/08/2020

Yesterday (Tuesday 17th August 2020) we experienced a minor embankment slip on The Union Canal to the west of last week’s breach at Muiravonside. More than 60mm of topsoil has been displaced from the hill in the Brightons area.

In the meantime, we have extended the towpath closure and introduced a diversion from Brightons, near Polmont in the west, to Linlithgow in the east for the foreseeable future. This will extend the distance from 4.4 miles and estimated 1 hr 26 minutes walking to 4.7 miles and an estimated 1 hr 33 minutes, by coming off the towpath at Station Road in Brightons, continuing along the A803 and rejoining the canal towpath at Kettil’Stoun in Linlithgow. Please see the proposed diversion route below:

Updates and further information will be shared here and on our social channels.

Updated 17/08/2020

Following last week’s severe weather across Scotland which resulted in a breach of the Union Canal near the A801 between Polmont and Muiravonside, Scottish Canals has now carried out a series of initial works. Alongside our partners we have secured the area and completely stopped the flow of water at the breach, this was a challenging task completed by our professional team.

As part of the works, The Forth Rivers Trust have undertaken the professional and diligent job of rescuing over 1000 fish from the pools of water downstream of the breach. The seven-strong expert team has now rescued a variety of freshwater fish including; pike, perch, roach, eel, three spined stickleback and brown trout returning them to their natural habitat in the canal.

Over the course of the weekend staff from both Scottish Canals and the Forth Rivers Trust maintained a presence onsite to monitor the water levels of larger pools downstream of the breach which were too large for to mount an effective rescue operation. Now that water has receded to a manageable level the team of fish experts will continue their work today. Techniques such as electrofishing and seine netting will be used to safely catch and transfer the fish. We are grateful for our partners’ quick response and diligence in rescuing canal fish which were stranded as a result of this incident.

Scottish Canals is committed to responding to emerging environmental challenges by reducing our impact and enhancing the environment, it is integral to what Scottish Canals does now, and to our future success. In 2015 we published our 10-year environmental strategy which sets out how we will respond to emerging environmental challenges. We are committed to driving the conversation around climate change and who it affects such as our canal users, local resident and wildlife.

We’d like to take this opportunity to remind canal users to be safe and to protect our staff by keeping physically distanced while we respond to this situation. Also, in the event of an out-of-hours emergency on the canal, members of the public can contact us on 0800 072 9900.


Muiravonside breach on Union Canal – Fish Rescue from Scottish Canals on Vimeo.




Updated 15:35 – 14/08/2020

Following this morning’s update that the breach had been filled, we are pleased to be able to report that the water flow has now stopped completely. It is important to note that this week’s severe weather was a one in 240 year event, according to SEPA.

We are starting to restore water levels on the east side of the breach, which is where the water feed is located, and this will allow us to begin pumping water to the west side. This is important for restoring boat movements between the Union Canal, The Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies in the coming days.

We are aware that some fish were stranded as a result of Wednesday’s breach. Yesterday we instructed our contractors to progress a fish rescue and this morning the team arrived on site and moved a number of stranded fish, including perch, from near the breach to an unaffected area of the canal. We have been in contact SEPA, the Scottish Federation for Course Angling and the Forth Rivers Trust, who were on site this morning, and are continuing to update them as the situation progresses.

We are working with contractors, partners and landowners to identify either an offsite or onsite towpath diversion and hope to be able to update next week.


Olivia Lassiere at Muiravonside breach on Union Canal from Scottish Canals on Vimeo.


Updates and further information will be shared here and on our social channels.


Updated 09:45 – 14/08/2020

Yesterday our team finished installing temporary clay dams to completely stop the flow of water through the breach near Polmont on the Union Canal. However, we expect the canal to remain closed at this location for some time until a permanent repair is carried out. We are carrying out enhanced inspections along the full length of the Union Canal to identify whether other sections may have been damaged by the recent severe weather.

We are working to restore water levels along the canal, which dropped due to the breach and we are working with contractors to progress a fish rescue that will involve safely moving any trapped fish to unaffected sections of the canal.

The towpath remains closed for safety reasons with barriers preventing public access and signage is in place at access points onto and off the towpath either side of the breach clearly indicating the closure. We are also investigating whether a towpath diversion is feasible.

A number of boating customers have been affected and we are working on ways to support them as best we can. While local boat movements remain possible either side of the breach, The Union Canal will remain closed to through traffic for some time.

The severe weather that Scotland experienced this week was exceptional. However we recognise that the incident has affected the wider community, stakeholders and customers and we would like to reassure everyone that our teams are working hard to address the situation and thank everyone for their ongoing patience.

George McBurnie at Muiravonside breach on Union Canal from Scottish Canals on Vimeo.

Updated 11:10 – 13/8/2020

Last night we continued to install emergency dams (sandbags etc) at the site and this significantly reduced the flow and volume of water passing through the breach.

Contractors have been on site since 7.30am installing clay dams 100m to the west of the breach and 150m to the east in order to reduce the flow of water further. This will mitigate the impact to the Edinburgh to Glasgow railway line where services continue to be disrupted. These dams are due to be in place within the next 48-72 hours and we are liaising with Network Rail regarding progress and timescales.

This will also enable us to return water levels to normal in the unaffected section of the canal in order to protect the structure of this scheduled monument.


Images of the early placement of sandbags and water flow from 12 August 2020.



Updated 14:27 – 12/08/2020

Sometime in the night, between 4am and 6am, we experienced a significant breach on The Union Canal 500m east of the A801 between Polmont and Muiravonside. Last night saw 80mm of rain fall between midnight and 6am, with over 40mm falling in one hour alone at 5am. This lead to a significant volume of water flowing into the canal, eventually overtopping and washing away part of the embankment and leading to a breach which is now 30m wide. No-one has been injured and while this has affected the Edinburgh to Glasgow railway line, disrupting services, the location is largely rural.

Scottish Canals was first alerted to a drop in water levels at 8am this morning. Staff were immediately deployed and have been onsite within 45 minutes to take the necessary measures to preserve life and protect property whilst ensuring the safety and welfare of all.

As The Union is a contour canal with no lock gates, we have installed stop planks at Manse Road Basin in Linlithgow to the east of the site and sandbags both at the A801 canal bridge and at Vellore Road bridge to the west to stem the flow of water. We have also put in place an emergency towpath closure between A801 and Vellore Road. These measures will remain in place until further notice while our engineers continue to deal with the situation and identify the next steps. We are in the process of contacting those boating customers who will be affected and are also liaising with Transport Scotland, Network Rail, SEPA, Historic Environment Scotland and Falkirk Council.

With a diverse portfolio of 4100 assets that include 137 miles of canal, 19 reservoirs, 227 canal embankments and 253 bridges, we have a rigorous inspection programme that takes place daily, weekly, monthly and yearly to ensure we have a clear understanding of the condition of the infrastructure in our care. Our Asset Management Strategy, which was published in 2018, informs the prioritisation of works we undertake each year with the budget we have available. We prioritise these works according to the risk each asset poses first to the public, followed by visitors and staff, and then operability. This stretch of The Union Canal was not identified as a high-risk asset.

However as 200-year old working heritage structures, Scotland’s canals face increasing pressures from climate change. Freak weather, such as we experienced in Scotland over the last 24 hours, brings much higher volumes of water than these scheduled monuments were initially designed to accommodate.


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